North to the Future!
by Scott Bellman, DO-IT Staff
Do you know the official motto for the state of Alaska? You guessed it—"North to the future!" With that fun motto in mind, DO-IT staff have been collaborating with partners in Alaska as part of the DO-IT AccessSTEM project to increase the number of students with disabilities pursuing careers in STEM fields. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In 2006, several Alaskan students participated in paid STEM internships. They worked at places such as the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a volcano observatory, Alaska Fish and Game, the Alaska Museum of Natural History, an adaptive technology computer lab, and the University of Alaska campuses.
During the first week of May, DO-IT Project Coordinator Lisa Stewart and I headed north to support recent activities in Alaska. We worked with K-12 educators, college faculty, students, and disability service providers to support activities such as
- high school "Transition to STEM" workshops on the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) and Fairbanks (UAF) campuses attended by forty-two high school students with disabilities;
- a STEM faculty information session about supporting students with disabilities in the sciences, attended by thirty faculty members on the UAF campus; and
- meetings with individual students to discuss paid STEM internship opportunities for summer 2007.
When a scale map of Alaska is superimposed on a map of the forty-eight lower states, Alaska extends from coast to coast. Yet the total population is under 700,000 people—not quite enough to fill the city of Seattle! With so few people spread across such a vast area, distance learning and web accessibility are important topics for Alaskan students and educators. DO-IT staff will return this summer to host an exhibit and deliver presentations at the Midnight Sun State-Wide Assistive Technology Conference (http://www.akatconf.com/) and to deliver special trainings on campuses. For more information about AccessSTEM consult http://www.washington.edu/doit/Stem/about.html.